RAGBRAI to visit Jefferson, Rippey as pass through towns on third day of 50th ride

By Brandon Hurley
Managing Editor


Thousands of RAGBRAI riders will soon be back.

Merely five years have passed since the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa last visited Jefferson, and riders will once again traverse through the area in July.
Both Greene County communities of Jefferson and Rippey were announced as pass through towns last week, serving as a pair of stops for riders as they work their way from Carroll to Ames on Tuesday, July 25.
Jefferson was most recently an overnight stop in 2018. Rippey last saw RAGBRAI bicyclists come through in 1980, eliminating a nearly 45 year drought.

The announcement for Jefferson in particular came with little surprise for Jefferson Matters: A Main Street Community executive director Matt Wetrich. RAGBRAI took notice of the town’s solid effort five years ago.  

“I know (RAGBRAI) was making a point, or at least, in my assumption, to come through towns that have had proven success,” Wetrich said. “It’s a nice little jewel in our crown to know that we are included on the 50th route in the biggest year RAGBRAI has ever had, or will have. It’s pretty great to be a part of that and know they liked what they saw in 2008.”


Riders will depart Carroll Tuesday morning after pedaling in from Storm Lake the day prior. The 2023 route will begin in Sioux City on Sunday, July 23 and finish at the Mississippi River Saturday, July 29 in Davenport.
Jefferson likely won’t see as many long, sustained crowds as they did in 2018. Pass through towns are a bit more laid back, though Rippey has been designated as the meeting spot, or lunch time, for the third day of RAGBRAI.

“There are so many moving parts to planning an overnight event, and a pass through town is a fraction of the planning,” Wetrich said.

As an overnight town, multiple committees made up of various volunteers must figure out sleeping arrangements, live entertainment as well as a number of food options.
Riders will make a quick stop in Jefferson as the second stop after leaving Carroll, which allows town leaders to plan for lighter activities. The route for Tuesday, July 25 consists of 83 miles or paved road as participants work their way to Ames. They’ll head through Glidden before taking E-53 east to Highway 25 North, connecting again with E-53 east,

Riders will also leave Jefferson on E-53, using east 235th Street as well as 230th Street to connect to Highway 144 into Rippey.
Cyclists will head to Luther after departing Rippey, coasting along Clover Avenue to E-57 to the east before taking Highway 169 north and back again onto E-57, where the route will take them to Luther, the final stop prior to the Ames overnight stop.


Though the process will be relatively less stressful this time around, Wetrich did say the city of Jefferson plans to make a splash. They’ll have food and drink vendors, while the sun shades used during last year’s Bell Tower Festival - made in conjunction with Power Lift and Hamilton Redi-Mix - while provide relief for many riders. A long day faces participants once they leave Carroll, and Wetrich expects a brief but impactful stop.

“They’re going to keep moving through here, but we’ll offer some fun things and we will put our best foot forward again like we have in the past,” Wetrich said. “One of the things I remember from our 2018 experience was (how) it mirrors pretty much all the other successful things we do here. We have a lot of collaboration. We have different entities in the community working together, from private to public, between our churches and our different service groups, to the city itself. The county will be involved of course with making sure the route is all in tip top shape for the riders.”

Cyclists are expected to enter downtown Jefferson on West Lincoln Way, a portion of which is expected to be resurfaced between Grimmell Road and Highway 4, in time for the July ride.  

Denison was the overnight stop in 2018 prior to Jefferson, a segment of 69-miles of terrain throughout much of southwestern Iowa. The landscape should look rather different as riders traverse much of the Highway 30 corridor en route to Jefferson this time around.
Rippey is no stranger to large swaths of bikers, as they serve as the halfway point for the annual BRR event, the winter Bike Ride to Rippey, which begins and ends in Rippey. The February ride features several hundred riders in comparison to the 20,000 some odd participants RAGBRAI is predicting, but the town knows how to flip those visitors into fundraisers. The 2023 edition of BRR produced more than $4,000 of funding between the various vendors offered throughout the rural, Greene County town.

Tuesday’s route from Carroll to Ames will feature 1,545 feet of climb, which will also be home to the infamous “Century Loop,” which will be released at a later date.


RAGBRAI doesn’t intend for each community to pay its own way. The organization has made a continued effort to pledge money to help enhance entertainment options throughout the route.

The city of Rippey, thanks to its service as a meeting town Tuesday, July 25, will receive $10,000 to offset expenses, as has been the case in year’s past, according to the RAGBRAI website. Jefferson will be gifted $5,000 as will the other pass through towns to also help with set up costs.

“This is something that should have been done years ago but it is now in place and will be a part of our budget each year,” RAGBRAI director Matt Phippen said.


RAGBRAI is celebrating the 50th edition of their annual bike ride, hoping to honor many of the original towns who took part in the inaugural ride. Five of the eight overnight towns in 2023 were also used during ride No. 1 in 1973. Event organizers are hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the biggest single-day “parade of bicycles” on Wednesday, July 26 as riders leave Ames for Des Moines. The record mark was set in 2000 when 48,615 bicyclists rode in Udine, Italy.
RAGBRAI predicts Wednesday’s leg could draw nearly 100,000 riders.  

In its release announcing the pass through towns, RAGBRAI director Matt Phippen said each town selected is “known for something.”

Riders will head to Slater and Madrid after leaving Ames, back-tracking to Polk City and into Ankeny before arriving in Des Moines for Wednesday’s overnight stop. Thursday’s overnight stop is pegged for Tama-Toledo while Friday’s resting point will be Coralville before ending in Davenport.

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